From the most famous choreographers to the newest of dance newbies, we're all going through the same pandemic-related struggles right now. So, how are the pros coping with it all? To find out, we're doing an interview series, #SocialDisDancing, in which we catch up with some of your favorite dancers to see how they're step-ball-changing their way through this unprecedented moment in dance history. This week, we chatted with VMA-nominated choreographer, teacher, and L.A.-based dance on camera extraordinaire, Galen Hooks.
(Be sure to check out Galen's takeover of our Instagram tomorrow for an inside peek at her day in the #SocialDisDancing life.)
Where are you currently social distancing?
I'm at my home in L.A. with my husband. We both typically work from home anyways, so fortunately this has been a change of lifestyle that we've been able to manage. It's been extremely busy, but we have the luxury of having time and mental space to dedicate to helping other people.
I've been quarantined since March 16, even before they issued official stay-at-home orders in L.A. I have family that work in the healthcare field, so we've been taking things very seriously and erring on the side of caution.
What were you up to right before social distancing was advised?
I was prepping to direct a music video, I had a TV show I was working on, and I had an artist that I was doing promo work for, in addition to my teaching that was scheduled throughout the rest of the year. I had just announced summer class dates in both Europe and the U.S. Like everybody else, everything got derailed at once. Fortunately though, I've been teaching from home, and I've really enjoyed building a new kind of student community online.
What have you been up to while social distancing?
Well, the beginning of this feels like years ago. I spent the whole first week trying to set up my livestream classes, which was really labor-intensive. I'm not sure if people realize how much work it takes. My husband and I both spent a lot of time researching platforms and best places to film. But once we cracked that code, the following weeks became much easier.
I did a couple classes on Instagram and a YouTube Live class, but I really wanted to make sure that everyone that was tuning into my class chose to be there, and carved out the time for it—so I ended up taking my classes off those platforms. Now my virtual classes feel really at home and as close to a real class as possible. My teaching style isn't any different. It feels incredibly focused.
In terms of a routine, I've never had one. The first week or so, I was very active and working out, taking people's classes. There was definitely an excitement each day to do certain things. Fortunately, every day I have something that I'm working on, which gives me at least a bit of structure. For example, I've been setting up several charity events to raise money for the Actors Fund, so my whole week is spent preparing for each event. I've really been focusing my energy and time around what I can do to help other people.
Have you picked up any new social distance hobbies?
This isn't outside of dance, but I've always missed tap dancing. It was a huge part of my childhood, and I did it almost every day as part of a company. As an adult, I've always lamented not having time off to get back into it, so being able to again was so exciting. Anyone can try whatever they want with no pressure right now, which is so great.
How do you think the dance world will change once this is over?
I think this pandemic has revealed how much pressure the dance community specifically feels like its under to pump out content. The fact that people are willing to sacrifice their civic duty of staying home to make that content concerns me a bit, when I think about what things will be like after this. There's going to be even more of a push for people to do things, and I imagine an overwhelming wave of people pushing their brands. I definitely want to continue offering virtual classes to people who can't come to the cities I teach in. It's certainly a positive that everybody can have access to the teachers they want to take from. But, I'm hoping that it doesn't overshadow the great instruction that students can get from their local studios.
Right now, the least I can do is teach from home and not break any rules, because it's not fair for me to go to a dance studio with a videographer and fancy lights when other teachers are trying to use Zoom in their living room. If everyone in L.A. set that example, I think it would help show solidarity with the local dance studio community. L.A. in particular sets such a high bar for the rest of the dance world, so I think it's important that if we continue to have this much virtual dance content, that we create it thoughtfully, and don't jump the gun. We're all in this together.
Who's the first person you want to see after social distancing?
My whole family.
First dance class you want to take or teach?
I can't wait to rent a space and do something for all of my Galen Hooks Method alumni.
First place you want to go?
Any last words of advice for your fellow dancers?
In terms of all the classes being offered, just take advantage of how much your heart feels good about. Know that resting and relaxing and recovering and finding new interests also changes you for the better as an artist. There's nothing lazy about that.